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TMJ (temporomandibular joint)

What is TMJ / TDM treatment?

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) treatment refers to the various therapeutic approaches used to manage and alleviate symptoms associated with TMJ disorders. The temporomandibular joint connects your jawbone to your skull and is responsible for essential functions like chewing, speaking, and opening/closing your mouth. When these joint experiences problems, it can lead to TMJ disorders, which are often characterised by symptoms such as:

  1. Pain and tenderness in the jaw, face, or around the ear.

  2. Difficulty or discomfort while chewing.

  3. Jaw clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth.

  4. Locking or limited range of motion in the jaw.

  5. Headaches, often resembling tension headaches or migraines.

  6. Earaches or ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

Treatment for TMJ disorders aims to relieve pain, improve jaw function, and reduce associated symptoms. Here are some common approaches to TMJ treatment:

  1. Self-Care: Simple self-care measures can help alleviate mild TMJ symptoms. This may include eating soft foods, applying ice or heat to the affected area, avoiding extreme jaw movements, and practicing relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

  2. Oral Splints or Mouthguards: Dentists often prescribe custom-made oral splints or mouthguards to help realign the jaw and reduce pressure on the joint. These devices can be especially beneficial if teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) is contributing to the issue.

  3. Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen and stretch the jaw muscles. These exercises can improve jaw function and reduce pain.

  4. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or muscle relaxants may be recommended to manage pain and muscle tension associated with TMJ disorders. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe stronger medications or anti-inflammatory drugs.

  5. Injections: In severe cases, injections of corticosteroids into the TMJ may help reduce pain and inflammation.

  6. Dental Procedures: In situations where dental issues are contributing to the TMJ disorder, dental treatments like orthodontics, dental crowns, or bridges may be recommended.

  7. Surgery: In very rare and severe cases, surgical intervention may be considered as a last resort. Surgical options include arthroscopy (minimally invasive), arthrocentesis (joint flushing), or open-joint surgery (more invasive).

  8. Lifestyle Modifications: Avoiding certain habits like excessive gum chewing, biting nails, or leaning on the jaw can help prevent TMJ symptoms from worsening.

The specific treatment plan for TMJ disorders varies depending on the individual's symptoms, their underlying causes, and the severity of the condition. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a dentist or oral surgeon, to determine the most appropriate treatment approach for your specific situation.

What happens during a TMJ appointment?

During a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) appointment, our soft tissue therapist, will assess your jaw and its related symptoms to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for TMJ disorders.

Here's what typically happens during a TMJ appointment:

  1. Medical History Review: The appointment usually begins with a discussion of your medical history. You'll be asked about any preexisting medical conditions, previous injuries, surgeries, and any medications you're currently taking. Mention any symptoms you've been experiencing related to your jaw or any related issues.

  2. Symptom Evaluation: The healthcare provider will ask you about the specific symptoms you're experiencing, such as jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, limited jaw movement, headaches, or earaches. Be as detailed and specific as possible to help with the diagnosis.

  3. Physical Examination: The healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination of your jaw, face, neck, and head. They will check for tenderness, muscle stiffness, and any unusual jaw movements or sounds. They may also assess your bite, looking for misalignment or dental issues.

  4. Palpation: The provider may gently press on various areas around your jaw to identify areas of pain or tenderness.

  5. Range of Motion Assessment: You may be asked to open and close your mouth, move your jaw from side to side, and protrude and retract it. This helps the provider assess your jaw's range of motion and any restrictions.

  6. Dental Examination: If dental issues may be contributing to your TMJ symptoms, the dentist may examine your teeth, bite, and dental occlusion (how your teeth come together when you close your mouth).

  7. Treatment Recommendations: Based on the assessment findings, the healthcare provider will discuss treatment options with you. Treatment may include lifestyle modifications, self-care measures, oral splints or mouthguards, physical therapy, medications, dental procedures, or, in rare cases, surgery. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of your TMJ disorder and its underlying causes.

  8. Education and Self-Care: The provider will often provide guidance on self-care measures you can take at home to alleviate symptoms and prevent exacerbation of the condition. This may include dietary recommendations, stress management techniques, and exercises to improve jaw mobility.

  9. Follow-Up: Depending on the recommended treatment plan, you may schedule follow-up appointments to monitor progress, adjust treatments, or address any new concerns that arise.

It's essential to communicate openly with your healthcare provider during the TMJ appointment, providing detailed information about your symptoms and asking any questions you may have. TMJ treatment is often successful in managing symptoms and improving jaw function when the right approach is tailored to your specific condition.

Jade Allen and Wendy Feltrup

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